All I did was to express my opinion. It was an opinion which wasn’t shared by the rest of the kids in the gang. There were intakes of breath. I can’t even remember what that opinion was but it was as if the gang had been waiting for an excuse; an excuse to act upon an uneasy tension which I had begun to sense between them and myself for some time. I wasn’t even allowed a chance to take my words back. It was too late, I was told. And that was when the bullying began. 

There was something calculated about it. I’d never shied away from expressing my own opinion and a good deal of the suffering I went through was in the form of ‘how dare people treat me this way’! I had always possessed an ego - my father never tired of telling me. But even my pride soon gave way to restless uncertainty. Of course, pride also had a lot to do with my keeping the bullying issue to myself. My parents, more than once, asked me whether or not there was anything wrong, anything I wanted to talk about. 

And the more I kept it to myself, the more this restless uncertainty became obssessive speculation which led nowhere. It wore me down. I found myself unable to concentrate on anything. I became distracted during conversations with others, and it was only when I happened to chance upon my tormentors at school - whether it was by chance or by design on their part - the knot in my stomach left me in no doubt: I was afraid of them.

I worried myself to sleep, waking each morning with the familiar knot in my stomach, no matter how generously the sun shone. For me, it was someone else’s sunshine. 

The place that I began to dread most of all was the teacherless classroom. I would pray that teachers wouldn’t arrive late to class; that they wouldn’t leave the room. If they did, even momentarily, the intimidation would always begin with missiles of stationery aimed at the back of my head. This would be followed by taunts and threats. My surname called in primival grunts. 

Then would come the walking past my desk and ‘accidently’ shoulder barging into me from behind. It wasn’t uncommon, at the end of a lesson, to discover the contents of my satchel strewn across the classroom foor and one one occasion tipped out of the window. 

Another situation would involve being surrounded by five or six of these people I had apparently chosen to be different from, asking me which of them I felt I could beat in a fight. Of course, my answer would be my fate. If I said ‘no-one’ they would say ‘yeah, but just suppose, if you could, who would it be?’ If I again said no-one, they would offer to choose for me. They would let me know when they had. 

There was a spinney across the road from our school where no teachers ever ventured. That was where the real fghts took place; the fights that didn’t get stopped until serious blood was drawn or until the loser pleaded for submission.

I lived in fear of being in a fight I didn’t want to have; simply engaging because there was no available alternative against a pugilistic aggressor and a baying crowd. I saw one older boy being kicked unconscious there and I developed a nauseous dread of the place. That my fight should be arranged to take place there was unthinkable. But it was possible. 

After three weeks of this calculated persecution, I was frightened; frightened of sudden confrontation: and this wearisome period of waiting cast a shadow over pretty much every joy. With this kind of nagging threat hanging over my seemingly interminable days at school, I gave myself little cause to look forward to anything. 

I started to believe that I had the appearance of someone who looked like a pushover, someone who was just asking to be bullied; I was small, with an innocent and pre-occupied expression. As I am an only child, I was always contented with my own company, but I began to resent the fact that I had       no-one to play football with anymore. No-one to laugh and joke with. What was there to laugh and joke about? 

My social life was much reduced. Indeed, I could count my friends on one hand with fingers to spare. But I managed two visits a week to the local boys’ club - for some reason the bullies seldom showed up there but that didn’t stop me worrying that someday they might - and a Friday night trip to the pictures, hoping that I wouldn’t, by some horrific accident, bump into them at the ticket booth. I made sure I sat at the back of the cinema, huddled down into my seat, with the hood of my Parka coat over my head. 

But during those painful weeks a new boy came to our class: Paul Wicks. He seemed quite shy but that could have been simply because he was new. I only spoke to him once: we discovered both our fathers had been in the armed forces and that we’d both gone to the same infant school in Lincolnshire. He’d been fond of Lincolnshire because of the wildlife; he collected The Observer Naturebooks, he said. I had no real interest in nature so we never really spoke again. 

Meanwhile, my aggressors had decided, as I couldn’t seem to decide for myself, that the person I might possibly be able to beat in a fght would be a boy called Harry O’Liffe. The bullies called at our family home and asked my parents, with peart cordiality, if I was coming out. Of course, my parents, being none the wiser, called out to me that I had a visitor. I’d pretty much guessed who it was at the door and realised that with a bully on our very threshold, I would have to face upto this haunting thing away from my parents and our familydoorstep. I knew that if I cowered and stayed at home, the blatant proximity of this threat would only increase the anxiety I was privately causing myself. 

When I left the house, closing the front door frmly behind me and with a seriously futtering stomach, I heard one of the six bullies mumble almost in astonishment ‘kin’ hell; he’scoming!’. His tone of voice summed up my action perfectly: I was either brave or stupid. Probably both. 

It wasn’t bravery that made me leave our house to do their bidding, it was desperation: - I was ready to plead with them:which would, of course have meant that I’d done their bullying for them. I was desperate to put an end to the whole thing. If pleading wouldn’t help me, I’d simply have to fight. So, I swallowed as hard as I could, grimly resigning myself to the fact that the only possible way through this wretched business was to think ‘well, if my fear of getting beaten up is greater than actually getting beaten up, what have I to lose by facing up to these people?’. 

I put up a poor fight. I got beaten; not badly but I felt very shaken up: light headed, sick; fushed in the cheeks. But what was interesting was that I didn’t leave with further taunting. Harry O’Liffe, after forcing me in front of his mates to accept that I had been beaten by grinding my face into the grass turf,actually offered to shake my hand afterwards. 

It wasn’t the most intelligent solution I could have settled on, but it sort of worked. A little pain earned me a little respect. I have never been a fighter, but I did have a stubborn mentality. An ego. 

I learned another lesson, too; that you would always lose a fight if you didn’t really want to have a fight at all. The psychology of the fight is that both parties want to destroy each other. In a fight, there is only room for motive and none at all for fear. It’s the awful dilemma that most adolescents face; either you try to ignore physical provocation or you stand up for yourself and fght back.

I didn’t realise it then, but the energy you stand up for yourself with, has to match the aggression of the assailant. Or you’re lost. A fight between two willing combatants is a fght: a fight with only one willing combatant is bullying. 

But I had done something which was the antithesis of what Iwas; I had fought back. I had lost - easily - but I had fought back. People who fought and had that innate streak of pugilism never felt pain; pain, it seemed, was just a by-product which, in the heat of your rage and eagerness to annihilate, you only felt afterwards, if at all. But by responding to the bullies’ challenge, I was, in reality, learning to speak their language; complying with their terms. 

The threats subsided a little after my fight with Harry O’Liffe but I lived in fear of how soon it might be before they decided upon another opponent for me. Another fght, another sign of dubious bravery required. I wasn’t sure I could be as brave again. 

I noticed, too, that the bullies had attracted another acolyte: Paul Wicks. Wicksy. Nature boy. I’d always thought of him as a fairly vulnerable kid: maybe a gang was insurance against his sensitivity but sometimes I found even Wicksy sneering at me. It didn’t suit him at all, but of course, he had the protection of the gang: you could easily see that it was a boost to his confdence. He tried to talk the way they talked. It didn’t ring true. I knew how he really spoke. Swearing didn’t suit him. 

Although the bullying eased up after the Harry O’Liffe fight,I refused to allow myself to believe the menace had really gone away but at least the shoulder barging and threats had dissolved into sneers and seemingly empty threats which seemed more than anything else, to be borne out of listlessness and boredom. 

With only two weeks to go until the end of the school year, I thought I might have spent the last days at this high school without further victimisation, but to my dismay, one summers afternoon I found just two or three of the gang of bullies, waiting for me at the school gates. They had, they said, decided on another opponent for me. I could feel the knot in my stomach tighten and sweat breakout on my brow and, I’m ashamed to say that a weary tear stood ready to fall until they mentioned the name of my next chosen opponent. Paul Wicks. 

Instead of that familiar knot of fear lying like a dead weight in my stomach, my enormous ego rose to the occasion. AlthoughI was no fighter, absolutely anybody could beat up Paul Wicks. 

The bullies had clearly set Paul Wicks up, too. They had manipulated him just as they had manipulated me for the past nine months. I noticed, too, that Paul Wicks wasn’t even there with them at the school gates. Wicksy wasn’t such a bad kid but this was my chance. Firstly, to vent almost nine months of bitter depression and rage and secondly to establish a second time that I wasn’t afraid - and this fight wouldn’t be nearly as frightening to contemplate as the one with Harry O’Liffe.

I simply asked them where and when. After the patronisingly slow whistles with which I was greeted, I was told that the fight would be on the following evening behind the local boy’s club.I couldn’t wait. 

This was a turning point. We had telephones in 1968. I could have rung Paul Wicks and explained to him that we were both being manipulated and Paul Wicks was bright enough to have understood and taken such a ‘phone call. The fact was, I wasn’t bright enough to make it. I had a point to prove. 

The following day came soon enough and I raced out of the boys’ club door when I heard poor Wicksy was arriving. The rage and ego in my face must have been extreme because I saw poor Wicksy’s horrifed expression, as if to say, ‘David,what madness is this? This isn’t you; what are we doing’. 

But I ran at him flinging punches that couldn’t possibly land because, in my fury, I had no physical balance and no fghter’s technique at all, only a crazed intention to destroy Wicksy and prove a point. 

My arms failed like a windmill that had lost control of itself and I ended up chasing the horrified youth around a car park - I think I fell over a couple of times - to the cheers and helpless laughter of the bullies ,who seemed to congratulate themselves on successfully setting two petrifed idiots against each other. 

Wicksy ended up crouching on the ground, face down with his head protected by his arms, as I kicked at his back, his thighs and the arms that shielded his head, before being effortlessly dragged off him by the boys’ club manager. He told the bullies to clear off: he’d never seen them before and he didn’t want to see them ever again. 

Nine months of personal persecution had come to an end in little more than a cruel joke lasting barely two minutes, in which Wicksy and myself had been nothing more than cruel sport. 

Within two weeks my time at that High School had come to an end. 

Our next school - a Grammar school - was far larger; and whatever identities we had all sought to establish in the smaller school was subsumed by the sheer mass of pupils from other high schools in the area. You might have been in the Football team at high school, but that didn’t guarantee you a place in the Grammar School side. You might have been a bully at high school, but that reputation would have to be earned and proved again in a far more populated environment. You might well meet more than your match. 

And, of course, there was puberty. Trying to get a girlfriend took sudden priority over having a victim, or indeed of being one. I was put in a class at the new Grammar School with a whole new group of people. 

Whither my High School bullies, I knew, nor cared, not. Some stayed on at the High School for an extra year, the quicker to leave school at ffteen and abandon study to pursue an apprenticeship for a trade. 

As for Wicksy, I nursed some regret. I could easily have contacted him to explain that we were the playthings of cruel forces. But I had an ego. I had a point to prove. I was no better than the bullies themselves.

When I saw him at Grammar School - he was a grade above me - we avoided each other’s eyes; he, presumably from the point of view of an unpleasant memory, and I from remorse. I left that Grammar school two and a half years later with just one ‘O’ level [History] and a small part in the local theatre pantomime. 

Wicksy left two years after I did, and went to Cambridge. 

Part Two: Conclusion

Had not that summer term ended so soon and a new school not begun, I might have found myself becoming increasingly drawn into dubious company to which I very obviously didn’t want to belong. 
But I’d have been welcomed because I believe gangs are made up of people who seek protection - which I wanted - and who want to appear to be strong and prove themselves to others. 

But although there is strength in numbers, it doesn’t necessarily follow that there is weakness in singularity. Why would strong people have need of a gang, even if they were being bullied? Being bullied is insufferable whether you belong to a gang or not. Joining a gang is not a guarantee of putting an end to bullying. The isolated gang member is far more vulnerable than the isolated individual. I was never a fghter, but every victim of bullying is invariably forced, much against his or her will, to learn to become a survivor. 


If you find yourself in the bullying domain and no alternative environment exists, you have to look to your own survival, either as a conscientiously objecting pacifist or as a retaliator for your own protection. This is what makes school such an insufferable place if you’re bullied. Where else can you go? 

Another reason that school is the worst place to be bullied, the absolute worst, is because most adolescent youths have no conscience to appeal to or any notion of remorse until it’s too late. And of course, if you confide in a teacher and it’s discovered, the bullying pretty much doubles in intensity. 

There weren’t many places to hide when I was at school, and there are probably even fewer now. And hiding from a bully is an open invitation to the horror of being hunted and found: they know you’re hiding from them. William Golding’s novel Lord Of The Flies has much to commend it in terms of school tyranny: rule or be ruled. 

But imagine if we were to substitute my euphemistic ‘beating up’ with ‘stabbing’. Or shooting. This is the urban reality of to-day. Our fights took place in a secluded spinney: stabbings today take place on the open street in broad daylight. 

If there had been knives and, possibly, guns, during my time at school, what little fool’s-courage I could hope to have mustered would not have lasted long. Perhaps, nor would I. 

And so, today, the last resort option to bullied schoolchildren is the gang. The gang offers protection: security. You can assume that you are safe in numbers; you can languish in that safety and be free of fear. 

Or can you? One simple prerequisite of belonging to a gang is loyalty. And loyalty, though it’s something which comes naturally without mention among friends, is a key bargaining term in the lexicon of the manipulator. A friend might modestly expect unforced loyalty from another friend. A manipulator, or bully, will demand it from his gang. 

Loyalty is only one small step away from disloyalty in the ideology of the gang, and then, see how the gang will turn against you and you might fnd yourself ‘bullied’ within the ranks of what you thought was security and friendship.  And where are you then? No-ne will take your side or they'll end up being bullied as well.

It is far worse to be bullied within a gang’s ranks than it is if you try to remain an individual. That was the fate of poor Wicksy. Of course he didn’t want to fght me. But would he have been made to fIght me had he not been in thrall to the gang? 

Worse still, if you remain within the gang, ask yourself whether or not that gang is in hock to other gangs which exist outside of school. How great is their influence? If you continue to offer your loyalty to your gang, how far away are you from being groomed for darker purposes? Is your allegiance tantamount to submission? And are there other gangs, whose quarrel with yours might be little more than simply territorial? These are the urban realities of today. 

The clue, I think lies in the distinction between being valued and being used. You are not valued by being a member of a gang; you’re being used; you’re being depended upon. And depended upon to what end? 

This difference is vital. You will always be useful to bullies or manipulators. Either your fear of them will empower them or it might be that you possess a quality that they envy and seek to control for their own purpose - you might simply possess the trait of being popular. Who better than a likeable person to do their dirty work for them? Bullies’ control of your qualities empowers them and so you and your fear - or your ‘loyalty’ - are of significant worth. 

This is not, of course, the same thing as being valued. Or if you prefer, you are being valued, but in a way that is useful to someone else and not to yourself. How many times in your life will you be asked to surrender your individuality - perhaps your worth - for the sake of ‘loyalty’? 

Let’s be metaphorical for a moment. If you were a musical instrument, a bully might use you for cleaning his drains. If you were a painting, a bully might use you to stand his coffee mug upon. If you were an athlete, you’d be the person he’d use to deliver drugs or weapons most speedily. If you were a published work of literature, you’d make a useful warning missile. In short, you’d be used and certainly not appreciated let alone valued. 

A popular TV series in the 1980s called Minder about the lovable rogue Arthur Daley and his ‘Minder’ Terry was always about manipulation. Arthur Daley - much like bullies and leaders of gangs - was always the first to play the victim, to complain of disloyalty; to assert that Terry’s lack of respect towards him was poor repayment for some insignificant favour he once did (and that he had studied to remember and which poor Terry - like any reasonable person - would have long forgotten. 

Terry was an emotionally blackmailed slave to his benignly manipulative employer Arthur Daley, whether he liked it or not because Arthur perpetually became almost lachrymose as he bemoaned Terry’s unkind disloyalty. 

Oscar Wilde once wrote that the worst tyranny of all is that of the weak over the strong. The Minder TV series was one of the most popular of its day because pretty much everyone in the country could relate to the relationship that was based on manipulation; every viewer knew that through benign subliminal bullying, Terry could never be disloyal to Arthur. And, of course, Arthur would always fnd some excuse not to pay Terry for his services. 

Part Three: Solutions: 

So what is the answer? 

The fact is, you cannot get rid of bullies. As long as there is fear in the world, there will always be bullies. Fear is a bully’s food; and, of course, a bully has antennae for the fearful. And that’s probably going to be me or you. 

Bertrand Russell, the philosopher, once wrote that the tragedy of the world is that fools are so full of confdence when wise men are so full of doubt. 

But fear is not a totally negative quality. It’s the opposite of confdence, for one thing; but far more shocks and surprises in life are due to over confidence than they ever were to fear. Over-confidence can lead can lead to many a pitfall. Fear can make you mindful of potential dangers around you and it can also be the force which compels you to deal directly with a challenge. Fear is, in that case, a motivator. Fear is not at all bad when confidence can lead to complacency. To recognise that you have fear is, in a sense,the first rule of bravery, of stoicism. Step one of your reality check. 

You cannot get rid of bullies, but you can diminish their significance in your life by increasing your own value and significance to other people in other environments far removed and far away from those of bullies. 

This might be harder at school or in the workplace, but the less you seem to be available, the less they will seem to see of you. I use them word ‘seem’ because my suggestion is based on the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle. 

The less they see of you, bullies will do one of two things. Either they’ll give you up and find some victim who is closer to hand or they’ll try and track you down. But the act of tracking you down is about the fervent desperation of recovering their own property, which is you. Without you, they cannot be bul-lies. 

And, in the event of them attempting to follow you, they’ll have to venture into unfamiliar territory where they’ll be less sure of their footing and you’ll have succeeded in reducing their significance by fnding something of greater signifcance to you than them. They’ll shy away from meeting people they don’t know, who’ll probably just treat them as ordinary.

Conclusion? The glowing truth in all of this is: you have a value. Any of your true friends and family will tell you this. 

A bully will tell you you’re nothing with the intention of making himself the sole estimator of your worth. You’ve probably never given that a second thought because, obviously, your thoughts have been too concentrated on the fact that you’re being bullied. 

But isn’t it the case, that if you’re being bullied, it must be worth somebody’s while to bully you. If you had no value, why would anyone bother with you? Why are you so important to the bully? The essential question is ‘where would the bully be without you?’ 

Therefore, you must have a value. What is it? Why would a bully be so fascinated with it? He or she thinks you will be useful to him or her. You will be of use to them. But ‘use’ - however demeaning - is still a value. I was useful to a bully as a cheap source of entertainment. So was Paul Wicks. But he realised that long before I did. 

The more valued and signifcant you seem to others will defeat their purpose. They’ll probably realise that their negative,vindictive personalities will not win favour with those who appreciate you. 

You are not running away; you are simply shifting your personality to where you are truly valued. It is for you, and you alone, to decide that since you have value, is the gang environment where you choose to place it?. 

To go back to our metaphor, if you were a musical instrument would you really want to be used for cleaning a drain? Surely you would prefer to hear the music you could make. You must believe that there are many places where your value will be appreciated and not abused. Very often, those places and people will find you. Perhaps they’ve already found you and, if not,then you have a positive path of discovery ahead of you. A search will offer a chance of inspiration whereas bullying and gangs only offer a seductive, inviting blindfold. Anything that purports to take the pain away and offer you constant protection has to be worthy of suspicion. 

Standing up to bullies is what others recommend. There are many proverbs which will illustrate the worthlessness of bullying, but proverbs are no comfort in the urgent plight of bitter and desperate experience. 

Many learn the art of self-defence in the form of combat sport,believing at first that physical response is the best way to deter aggressors, only to discover that self-defence is just as much a philosophy of diverting negative energy as a physical skill. 

You have a value. We have proved that, so it must be acknowledged. There is no better feeling, nothing more spiritually gratifying than knowing you are in the company of people with whom you share an appreciation of true personal worth, creating or simply being a part of creating something of human value. 

I can’t vouchsafe a solution, I can only speak from personal experience. I am in no position to offer any advice because all of our circumstances as victims are unique. Even the mostap-posite proverbs fail to provide practical solutions. 

As quoted above, one of the tragedies of our world is that fools are so full of confdence and wise men and women so full of doubt. 

Wherever there is fear there will be bullies but fear is a far greater motivator than confidence. You can never get rid of bullies but I know from experience that you can effectively reduce his or her infuence in your life by going where you are valued, not where you’re merely useful.

©David Shaw-Parker 26.06.2018

Someone Else's Sunshine      © June 26th 2018
Haîku is a 17 syllable poem of Japanese origin comprising three lines of 17 syllables in 5 / 7 / 5 form. it can be humourous, philosophical or a 'still life' of our many human experiences - or even all three. Basho, [1644-1694] who blew the dust from the old traditional Japanese form which dated from 11th century, claimed that they work best when reflecting nature and the wonders of the seasons. He dedicated his life to the edifying effects of the Haiku.
Fighting For Peace               

The name of Rodney Wilson alone was enough to make us uncomfortable. 

it belonged to a lean, brown-eyed raven-haired youth who could easily defeat any other thirteen year old boy standing in his way. In the unlikely event that you could even match Rodney Wilson as a fighter,you would certainly never overcome his elder brother Steve who was stronger but somewhat less demonstrative.

Like most of our school, I had never seen Rodney Wilson fight but for some reason this never came into question with regard to his reputation.

He had a scowl that could disable any smile and a mood that could change as if by the flick of a switch. Those that were most scared of him were those closest to him; I saw him hit one of his cronies once; theboy didn’t seem hurt but his fear betrayed itself in an almost purple blush.

Any new boys to our school soon had their mettle tested before they had even learned anyone else’s name. Rodney Wilson would confront them eye to eye with his infamous scowl and ask them why they were staring at him.

Curiously, the only person who Wilson never challenged was the captain of the school football team, Ray Powell, for whom Wilson played Centre Forward.

Powell did not quite possess the physical power of the leaner, quicker Wilson but he was motivated beyond all else with the will to win at soccer and if he ever criticised Wilson for letting the team down, he met only with the infamous scowl and perhaps a passing threat.Nothing and no-one scared Powell when it came to football. The glory of goal-scoring mattered to Wilson but Powell, who played at Centre Half was more concerned with motivating a winning team.

More curious still, Powell dated the Wilson brothers’ younger sisterMadeleine, a raven haired beauty, jealously protected by her elder siblings. Rodney was once heard to say ‘If you ever hurt my sister, Powell...’ and Ray Powell could recognise a genuine threat when he heard one.

Oneof the reasons so few of us saw Rodney Wilson fight was simply the lack of opponents. His reputation alone was enough to sustain him; and his scowl was its chilling emblem.

So Wilson simply enjoyed his unchallenged power. He taunted people at will; he could afford to threaten people - perhaps punch people - without fear of retaliation. His capriciousness could even be amusing - certainly to his circle of followers - unless you were to smile out of turn.

But Wilson needed nourishment to quench his appetite for aggression; a fighter must needs engage an opponent from time to time. So he was on the lookout for victims.

That put fear into most of us and we were careful to keep on his kinder side although we knew that the caprice of a bully such as Wilson could be terrifyingly unpredictable.

Eventually Wilson found a target; an overweight boy whose ineffectual bulk relied tenuously upon two thin and shapeless legs for support. First came the insults to the defenceless fellow, and then came the blows and kicks which Wilson claimed were deserved by the lack of deference shown to him in the poor adolescent’s characterless face.

It was almost fun to watch Paul Mayfield’s battering, I have to admit; fun borne of the relief that Wilson hadn’t chosen one of us; it was gratifying to know that Mayfield was the victim elect.

While this unsought-for punishment continued for almost a year, puberty bestowed it’s blessing - or its curse - upon we young boys whose fourteenth birthday loomed.

For Wilson, it manifested itself in the form of the promising down of a brown moustache attracting even more female attention; for Paul Mayfield, it brought Soriatic Acne, more puppy fat and isolation; we could all see the tearful weariness rise in Mayfield’s face during each school break-time as Wilson approached.

Before we entered our third year of high school, most of us had taken a holiday job. The Wilson boys had paper rounds as well as Saturday morning shifts at the local launderers, and Paul

Mayfield, whose father worked for the local council, had helped his dad with the council dustbin round, though it took some effort to lift and up-end a dustbin single handed.

But with patience, and the discipline of physical exercise, Mayfield found himself able to up-end a loaded dustbin and empty it clean into the cart by himself, in one sweeping movement of the body.

His legs grew stronger and at just fourteen, the bulky Mayfield took his well earned mug of tea alongside the local dustbin men with pride.

The acne, though still visible, was now speckled with uneven tufts of wispy facial hair but it was a sorry comparison to Rodney Wilson’s thin but discernable proto-moustache.

It seemed natural that as our school term recommenced after summer, Wilson’s taunting of Paul Mayfield should continue also, as opponents were still sadly lacking. It was good break-time amusement.

But there was a development. Usually, Wilson would only kick or punchMayfield once and claim, for comic effect, that he felt better for doing so but after delivering the first of a fresh term’s set of kicks and blows, Paul Mayfield was heard to growl.

This provoked a sudden burst of mirth in Wilson and his cronies. Wilson declared that he might have to strike Mayfield again to be absolutely sure he heard this bovine utterance, but as he approached to deliver another blow, Mayfield took a tentative,unsteady step forward which halted Wilson in his tracks.

low and amused murmur suffused the uneasy silence that followed.

So you want do do something about it, do you, Mayfield?’ suggested Wilson, ‘Right. Spinney. Four o’clock .Don’t keep me waiting.’

So. Rodney Wilson was finally going to have fight. Those of us who had never seen him fight before would be granted that much anticipated thrill which depended, of course, on whether Mayfield would be brave enough to turn up, which was unlikely. Perhaps he would have to be rounded up, like a stray bull-calf, and brought to slaughter.

The place of sacrifice was commonly known as The Spinney, a barren stretch of wasteland just far enough away from the school to be beyond the remit of any teacher, yet close enough for the convenience of dark, uninterrupted sport and Wilson arrived first with his cohorts just ahead of a sizeable crowd of eager adolescent spectators.

He was looking forward to a simple and spectacular victory, eager to dispel any cynicism which might, due to lack of recent evidence, have adumbrated his pugilistic prowess. He had dispatched two of his henchmen to make sure that the luckless Mayfield would be as good as his growl of defiance and not disappoint the waiting crowd.

Mayfield,as Wilson’s confederates were to discover, was ready enough andbore a countenance, much to their surprise, of grim determination.He shrugged off their arresting arms and strode slightly ahead of them, out of the school and across the road to where Wilson was waiting, handing his school blazer to his elder brother as he saw his victim approach.

There was little elegance in what was to follow and a blow by blow account of the affair is unnecessary save to say that Wilson’s opening blows lacked nothing, either in style, accuracy or force.

But these blows were nothing new to Mayfield; he had felt them all before in the playground. The only weapon he had was the bulk of his weight and a cold, fixed determination to put an end to a year of dark,personal hell once and for all.

Such a motive, Wilson was ill equipped to dispel. It confronted him like an unforeseen destiny. He had picked a fight out of wilful, malevolent caprice and as every blow seemed to slowly drain him of energy minute by minute, he slowly lost the will to confront his one-time victim whose purpose seemed to show neither sign nor hope of relenting.

The spellbound crowd stopped cheering their hero as they saw reticence displace the harrowing scowl on Wilson’s face.

In desperation, Wilson tried to wrestle his opponent to the ground. With studied effort, Mayfield seized Wilson under the crotch, and with his other arm around Wilson’s neck, he up-ended the school bully like a loaded dustbin full of rubbish and slammed him to the ground on his back, with the almost fatal consequence of Mayfield’s full bulk landing on top of Wilson with crushing force, buckling a rib and leaving Wilson a writhing, breathless heap.

But Mayfield was intent on continuing and still possessed the motivation so to do, bitterly repaying in full the punches he had long received from his fallen aggressor but the gentlemanly intervention of Ray Powell and of Steve Wilson in the interests of his fallen brother’s welfare brought the event to an unsophisticated yet not unpoetic close.

Mayfield was held back by Wilson’s cohorts, who could easily have been shrugged off by Mayfield, had he chosen so to do.

Paul Mayfield had no desire, and probably no need, ever to be involved in a fight again. And neither did Rodney Wilson. But probably for very different reasons.


© David Shaw-Parker 2018
So we get born. Apparently it’s traumatic but we don’t remember any of that.

We just leap straight into Childhood. Fantastic. Chaotic happiness. Unfettered irresponsibility. Attention. Someone may occasionally wag a finger but it’s soon back to normal again. Then there’s ice cream, Christmas and lots of attention. If you feel a bit glum, the big people seem to know exactly how to make you feel better. It’s all about you. About doing what you like.

Then people start mentioning school. As if it’s scary.

But school is just a place that operates differently to home. There are rules, ways of going about things. More like common sense, really. That’s okay. Go with that. Home is home, school is school. We’re just growing up together after all.

And actually it’s not so bad. There’s stuff to learn but some of it’s really interesting. And there’re other people your age there. Some of them really friendly. The work doesn’t seem like work and the other people don’t seem like strangers anymore. They’re your mates. Most of them anyway. They like you, they’re just like you and what could possibly be scary?

But there’s a person who’s struggling with all this. A guy who just doesn’t get it. He’s called a bully.

To the bully, school is a worrying antithesis to his unrestrained childhood chaos. He wants his unbridled happiness back and most of all, the attention he was used to getting. He misses that most of all. To the bully, School takes that away. Fitting in means ‘losing’ something: why would you want to be just like these other people?

Anyone who could like a place that takes all your freedom away must be a complete idiot. The learning stuff doesn’t make sense to him. It doesn’t seem to concern him.

But the bully has a secret weapon: he has a brain cell. This makes some people think he is god. These people are called Cronies. They would love to have a brain cell of their own. Sadly, they just have to marvel at his. Just like he tells them.

But, powerful though it may be, bully’s brain cell still can’t work out why some people actually like school. Those people must be weird. Stupid. Not proper people at all. They obviously don’t have a brain cell like him. They are obviously inferior. They must be the biggest idiots that ever walked the earth.

Then he notices you. You seem to be enjoying yourself at school. People like you. Teachers encourage you. You’re popular with boys. And girls. People like your company and your enthusiasm. They like the positive feelings you give off.

Bully and his brain cell have a eureka moment. You like school, you look happy there, you actually like learning stuff and going to classes. It’s obvious. You are clearly the biggest idiot that ever walked the earth. Just what he was looking for.

He approaches you. He looks at you as if it’s wrong to be enjoying what you’re enjoying. And it’s annoying him. You look back at him wondering how this can be? He has your attention. That’s what he wants.

And suddenly, through no fault of your own, by doing absolutely nothing at all, by simply looking as if you’re happy, you have a bully on your case.

His cronies are right behind him. Behind him. That’s kind of significant. He’s always right. He has a brain cell, remember.

He’s fixated by you. Not least because you seem to him to be subservient. The way you look confused when he approaches you. Your look of concern. Yes, he likes that. That’s the kind of attention he wants. And when you’re only operating on one brain cell, that’s all it takes to satisfy you. You are a source of happiness to him.

Now, to be fair to the bully, he has more than one brain cell, but because he’s so fixated by you, that is all he needs. And he probably doesn’t realise he has other brain cells (you don’t when you have an obsession). However fearsome he looks, however fiercely he behaves, you are witnessing the irrational work of one brain cell.

Imagine, if you could convince just one of his cronies that he or she had not just one but two brain cells. Possibly even three... at one stroke, you have tripled his or her cognitive intelligence. You’d be doing those Cronies a favour. You’d liberate them from a tyranny they didn’t know they were under and never hitherto thought to oppose.

He or she might suddenly confide in another Cronie.

Then what? If the bully should suspect that his Cronies were twice or three times as smart as he was? Being powerful is no mare than convincing others that they should be afraid of you. The need to convince people you’re powerful is the first sign of losing your grip on power. Clinging to power is desperate. Isn’t it?

But then again, why waste your time?

And, as we said, the bully has more than one brain cell but he’s so confused and obsessed by you, his mind has narrowed down almost to closing point: he doesn’t realise he’s only using one. You only need one brain cell for jealously, malevolence and a negative attitude.

And maybe, when smarter bullies have figured out he only has one brain cell, he’ll become a victim. Perhaps without even realising.

Does it make sense to let a person who depends solely on the use of one brain cell affect the inspiration and elation you experience among people who, like you, enjoy the use of so many, many more.     

© David Shaw-Parker 2019

When Bullying Begins at School

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